Episode 58 – Everything has to be custom

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Episode 58 – Everything has to be custom

In Digital Marketing Everything Has To Be Custom | Sideways8

My guest on the show today is Brad Meriwether. Brad is the Director Marketing for the Atlanta Braves, responsible for the Braves’ overall marketing and communication strategies across key channels including online, broadcast and experiential. Prior to the Braves, Brad spent twelve years in various marketing roles with two Atlanta marketing agencies and a technology startup. A native of Marietta and graduate of Kennesaw State University, Brad and his wife Nicole live in Midtown Atlanta and are the proud parents of three children – Drew, Haddie and Luke.

Highlights from this Conversation

  1. What has worked well for you?
    1. Media strategy
      1. Paid ads
      2.  approach to communication through paid channels
    2. Getting more segmented and data-driven has been huge
    3. Helped them reach the more casual fan
    4. Target based on interest and behavior
  2. What hasn’t worked well that we can learn from?
    1. Generalization in digital and social
    2. “Let’s use social Media” isn’t the solution
    3. Key
      1. Work within the medium to customize the content for the audience specifically
    4. Everything has to be custom
  3. What are you excited about?
    1. How marketing affects the entire organization
    2. Enhance a fan’s experience in a game by interacting on their phone
      1. Best way to push and pull content
    3. Intersection of technology with physical experience

Interview Transcript

Adam: [ 00:00:08] Hi and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast, a podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a digital marketing agency and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours. My guest on the show today is my friend Brad Merriweather. Brad, is the director of marketing for the Atlanta Braves responsible for the Braves overall marketing and communication strategies across key channels, including online, broadcast and experiential. Prior to the Braves, Brad spent twelve years in various marketing roles with two Atlanta marketing agencies and a technology startup. A native of Marietta and a graduate of Kennesaw State University, Brad and his wife Nicole live in midtown Atlanta and are proud parents of three children, Drew, Hattie, and Luke. Brad, thanks for joining me on the program.


Brad: [00:01:02] Adam, it’s a pleasure, excited to be with you.


Adam: [00:01:03] Oh man, this is going to be a fun conversation, man.

Brad: [00:01:06] Yes, it is.


Adam: [00:01:07] I’m very much looking forward. I always enjoy spending time with you and always feel like you’ve got really intelligent stuff to say so now you can share the intelligence stuff with the listeners so that’ll be great.


Brad: [00:01:16] Looking forward to it.


Adam: [00:01:17] Alright, so let’s dive right in. So the question is related to digital marketing, tell us something that’s working well for you.

Brad: [00:1:25] Yeah, so here with the Braves, part of my responsibilities include our media strategy, so this includes really all of our paid advertising and paid forms of marketing and so what I would say one thing that’s working well for us that we’ve made tremendous strides on in the last twelve months or so is just our data-driven approach to communication through those paid channels. We are currently in the process of implementing sales force from a marketing automation standpoint and, man, we used to honestly just kind of fly by the seat of our pants and operate off of our gut when it related to where we spend our money, who our audiences are. I mean obviously we’re always going after the Brave’s fan, the one that’s core to our business, but getting more segmented and data-driven in our media, our advertising, our communication has been huge. We do a lot throughout the year that really goes after someone that I would say is more of a [fringe? 00:02:30] or a casual baseball fan. They’re not coming to ten or twelve, fifteen, twenty games a year, they’re coming to one or two with friends and family and we’re trying to reach them with pulse points. You know things that they’re interested in, passions of theirs. It may be college football or the college they graduated from. It may be the fact that they’ve got a family member who is in the military or maybe is a first responder and so we do a bunch throughout the year to target based on interest, performance, excuse me, interest and behavior. And now we have the ability to reach them in a very targeted way through boosted social, through our display and we do a lot of network buys as opposed to working straight with local publishers. And we’re able to hone in on those audiences, do look-alike targeting, really operate more off of data that we know about the audience already and what we do to intercept them relative to those interests and passion points, as opposed to just blanketing an audience, maybe by a Geo or based on a cursory interest in baseball or live events or sports, we can really drill into what they’re most passionate about and reach them with relevant things that we have going on here at the ballpark and through Brave’s activities that are connected to those passion points.


Adam: [00:03:51] Man, I love that. Hyper segmenting your audience based on data and delivering information that actually matters to them. I mean it’s a novel idea, right? It’s brilliant. That’s exactly what we all want to be doing. That’s perfect.


Brad: [00:04:05] There you go, that’s right.


Adam: [00:04:06] I love that, man. I love that and I’d love to even someday get into the nuts and bolts and seeing how you’re doing that because I think that’s really fantastic.


Brad: [00:04:13] It’s a lot of fun. [inaudible 00:4:13] over here and it’s a blast.


Adam: [00:04:16] I bet I would too in a heartbeat, in a heartbeat. So that’s been working well, that’s exciting. I’m a big fan of all that. So tell me something related to digital marketing that has not been working well that we can learn from.


Adam: [00:04:28] Yeah, it’s a really good question. It’s something that all of us should be thinking about constantly really. I would say one thing that comes to mind for me is overgeneralizing when it comes to digital and social. For example, here with the Braves, we actually employ about thirty, what we call trainees. They’re really interns, annual interns, throughout the entire business side of the organization. So, folks that are straight out of college that may be working in marketing or game entertainment or ticket sales or even on the baseball ops side, it’s a really good opportunity for folks like that. And every year they group together and they do a ticket sales project and it’s a really good opportunity for them to learn on the fly and kind of soak in what we do with the Braves, but also be able to apply those learnings in a tangible way. So when we have marketing conversations with them, time and time again, we hear phrases like, if we ask a question like, well how are we getting the word out about this? How are we going to promote it? How are we going to get people interested in what you got to sell? Often times you’ll hear things like, well, let’s just use social media or they may come to the table already with ten different hashtag options. And really the key there instead of just almost slapping the communication channel onto something in a very generalized way, the key is to work within the medium to customize the content and really to reach the audience based on the platform and the channel that they’re in. For example, I mean we know that Instagram through stories and Snapchat through their approach is far different than Facebook or doing an online display campaign or I mean clearly if you’re writing scripts for say radio or TV, I mean all of those mediums are vastly different. And instead of just overgeneralizing with, yeah, we’ll put X, Y and Z against a ticket sales initiative or against a product that we’re trying to sell,  you really have to customize the content and the way in which you’re reaching the audience based on the medium. And I know it sounds extremely basic and for those of us that are in it every day we get it, we see it, but we’re still faced with that over and over again where just in the rush of what we do, it’s like, well, let’s put it up on Facebook. Let’s put it up on Instagram and it’s way too easy to say, let’s just put it up. Really the key is in unpacking that and figuring out, okay, well how and why? Why would we put it up and therefore how would we approach this? What types of custom content, what kinds of unique messaging need to be applied, not only based on the product that we’re trying to push, but based on the medium in which we’re using.


Adam: [00:07:25] Yeah, I love that and I totally agree. It’s too easy to say, let’s just put it up and it’s almost like you have to draw a hard line in the sand and say, we will never just put it up. We’re never going to put up a piece of content that’s generalized, that’s not customized, that’s not thought through, that’s not for the audience in which we’re using this medium. We’re instead going to always customize, we’re going to always think through the audience, we’re going to always think through the medium, and we’re going to really make sure that what we put out there is going to hit home with those people.


Brad: [00:07:54] That’s exactly right. And also instead of just blanketing something across all channels, what is it most pertinent for? You know there may be something similar to what you’re saying about drawing the line in the sand, there may be something that is only good for Instagram stories.


Adam: [00:08:08] Absolutely, [inaudible 00:08:08]


Brad: [00:08:09] We’ve done that where based on the user experience and the interactivity, it’s much more conducive to kind of rapid-fire content consumption and so that’s vastly different than a quick hit of a photo with a caption on Facebook or a fifteen or a thirty-second radio spot that you listen to. So everything has to be unique, everything has to be custom. It can’t just be a version of itself, it’s got to be approached from a unique thing angle.


Adam: [00:08:38 I love that, everything has to be custom and as tough as it is for me to say that and as tough as it is for us to execute on that, I think that’s the key to good marketing. It’s always custom. It’s always custom to your audience. It’s always custom to the platform. It’s always custom tailored to their needs, not our needs, right?


Brad: [00:08:59] Yup.


Adam: [00:08:59] I love that, I love that. So that’s what was not working well was the overgeneralization. So now for the fun question, related to digital marketing, tell me something you’re excited about.


Brad: [00:09:10] Yeah, so in marketing for a sports team like the Atlanta Braves, we’re in a really cool position where, I mean, yes, we’re trying to fill seats and drive revenue, but we’re also trying to solve problems across the organization. So it’s not just how do we put advertising out in the market, we’re interfacing with really all facets of the organization from our game entertainment team to ticket sales to PR guest services, etcetera and so I mean it’s a privilege and it’s something that we don’t take lightly. So one thing that I’m excited about as it relates to a digital marketing is how we can enhance a fan’s experience in a game through their interactivity with us on their phone. And it sounds very simple and really it should be, but there are so many different ways in which we can do that. Everybody’s got their phones on them. When they walk through the gates they’re with their family, their friends, buddies, whoever it may be, but everybody’s got a phone in their pocket or their purse and so it’s really our best way to push content and also to pull content. One of the interesting stats that we always reference from opening day last year, the first game we ever had at SunTrust Park was there was more content published on opening day than consumed and when you think about that for a second it really starts to shift your thinking as it relates to WiFi capabilities and a lot of the infrastructure that we’ve built and how we enable that, how we leverage it. So we want, you know, we don’t want to shift behavior, we want to be aware of existing behavior so that we can offer more value to our fans, so if they’re interested in publishing, how do we remind them that it’s easy to do with our WiFi network. How do we enable content sharing in between innings where you’re not only seeing something that’s happening on the field or out in the stands, but you’re encouraged to participate and play along. We know that at this point, augmented reality, virtual reality, those are becoming much more accepted and pervasive so as you’re walking around the ballpark, how can we take maybe an artifact that represents a moment in Braves history, how do we bring that literal play to life on your phone where, you know you see the 1995 world series trophy, but when you scan it, it brings up the final out of the world series in ’95 when we [clinched? 00:11:35]. Little things like that that really enhance the memory and the emotion of your visit. We know that fans are not just coming to games because they’re cheering on the team and they hope they win. I mean that is important, but you want to create memories and a lot of that is driven by more emotion than function. We’ve got to always meet functional needs, but what excites me the most is how digital technologies can enhance your emotional connection to our team through the memories that you’re making here at the ballpark. So I think for us, we’re inspired and we’re always excited to kind of be the conduit between digital forms of marketing and our fan experience teams so that every fan that comes through the gates is blown away by not only what they watched on the field but what they experienced in the stands as well.


Adam: [00:12:29] Man, I love that. That’s really clever and the fact that you’re thinking through how the technology affects your physical experience in the park and around the park and through the experience is really fantastic, I think it’s really smart and there’s a lot of really interesting things you can do with that. I think it’s just going to get better and better. That’s really exciting stuff.

Brad: [00:12:46] Absolutely.


Adam: [00:12:47] Well, Brad, let me see if I can summarize sort of what we’ve learned so far and then you can let me know what I missed and what you’d like to add to it. So related to digital marketing, what has worked well, you said your media strategy is working really well, in particular paid ads and getting more segmented and really very specifically data-driven is really what’s made that a big thing. It’s also helped you to reach more of the casual fan and not the person that’s there for ten/twelve games, but the person that maybe come to one or two games a year and then really engage with that audience because you’ve been able to be much more specific about how you’re targeting them and the messages that you’re speaking to them and you’ve got a target based on interest and behavior, which I think is fantastic. Under what’s not working well, you said, generalization in digital and social just does not work well. The concept of, you know, let’s just use social media or like let’s just post it, that sort of thing doesn’t work. Everything really has to be custom and I think you said the key is to work within the medium to customize the content for the specific audience within that medium. And I think you’re right I mean Instagram versus Snapchat versus Facebook versus Twitter versus YouTube are all extremely different mediums with extremely different audiences and we all have to choose to make everything custom. Everything has to be custom, which is hard, but really important. And for what you’re excited about, you said, how marketing affects the entire organization and then in particular, how you can enhance a fan’s experience in the game by interacting on their phone with you and how to best push and pull content with that fan, and it’s kind of that intersection of technology and physical experience. So the digital experience with the physical experience at the ballpark. I think that’s really fantastic. Did I miss anything there?


Brad: [00:14:38] Man, you were listening well. You covered most of it. The only thing I was going to add, something I glossed over a little bit in the media section, it’s not only the segmented and targeted approach in terms of one-off communication, but it’s also with the full customer journey in mind. I mean we have season ticket holders that some of them have been with us for decades. Well obviously our interaction with them is going to be different than someone that may just visit one or two games a year so it’s segmenting based on behavior, but it’s also keeping in mind their connection to us. One interesting fact that we’re always kind of blown away by is that about 60% of our single game ticket sales are within the week of the game, so about seven days or a few are out, but one of our theories and we’re gathering more and more data on this to prove it, but one of our theories is that when someone gets interested in coming to a game, it’s far earlier or far out from the game much further out than seven days, but it’s on us to make sure that our touch points are maximized so that if it’s, say a month out of Father’s Day and you know you to want to bring your dad to the game, we’re communicating with you. You may not make the purchase until the week of, but we’re doing our job from a touch point standpoint to make sure that the customer journey is maximized and it’s not just the same message that you’re seeing over the course of those four or five weeks. We’re tailoring the message based on your previous interaction so it’s data-driven from a customer journey perspective as well.


Adam: [00:16:18] Wow, man I love that. That’s fantastic. It’s high tech man, that’s some high tech marketing you’re doing there. I love it.


Brad: [00:16:24] That’s right, that’s right.


Brad: [00:16:26] I would expect nothing less from you or from the Braves so that’s fantastic.


Brad: [00:16:31] That’s awesome.


Adam: [00:16:32] Well, Brad, this is great man. I really appreciate you being on the podcast. Definitely, want to have you back at some point in the future and learn more from you, but in the meantime, man, thanks for joining us and I’d love to have you back again soon.


Brad: [00:16:44] Yeah, would love to come back. Adam, always a pleasure, really enjoyed talking to you.


Adam: [00:16:49] Thanks for listening to the Good People. Good Marketing podcast. To get more resources about digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker and on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership, productivity, habit building and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks and tune in next time.


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